Have you ever wondered how to cook cabbage Irish style? This recipe features boiled shredded cabbage boiled with bacon and peppercorns.
Potatoes and cabbage are probably the two vegetables Ireland is most famous for. Millions of heads of cabbage will be cooked and eaten on March 17th and in the days leading up to St. Patrick's Day.
Irish cabbage is boiled and shredded and served with melting butter.
Table of Contents
Boiled Shredded Cabbage Irish Style
When I was preparing corned beef last week, I mentioned to my husband that I planned to steam cabbage wedges. A look of disappointment crossed his face as he declared:
"Don't give me any fancy wedges of cabbage.
I like my cabbage Irish style."
And so I cooked our cabbage Irish style, boiled and cut up into shreds, then served with melting butter.
My grandmother always cooked cabbage in the same large pot and salty water she used to boil bacon.
I like the flavor a little bacon adds to cabbage, so I thought I would share my cabbage cooking technique with you today, in preparation for our favorite saint's feast day. It comes with a seal of approval from my Donegal man.
But in Ireland cabbage is cooked with bacon to add flavor, so I used a little trick to add the necessary flavor. I created a flavor packet using bacon strips and peppercorns wrapped in a cabbage leaf to give this cabbage an Irish flare.
Ingredients for Irish Boiled Cabbage
Here's what you'll need to cook this vegetable side. You'll find a printable recipe at the end of this post, with exact quantities plus additional information regarding nutrients.
- green cabbage
- streaky bacon
- water for boiling
You'll notice I don't add any black pepper to my cooked cut cabbage since there are peppercorns in the our flavor packet. I leave this peppering step to each individual family member or guest at my dinner table.
There aren't many spices or even garlic powder added to this boiled cabbage recipe. In Ireland food tends to be cooked without much additional heat. We often laugh and say salt and pepper are the Irish spices.
This recipe can be used for many types of cabbage. In America I cook a regular green cabbage. In Ireland I would choose a Savoy cabbage. This recipe also works for Napa cabbage or red cabbage, but I do prefer slow cooked spiced red cabbage.
If you don't have time for making a bacon
Ingredient Tips and Substitutions
Cooking half a head of cabbage yields about 4 servings.
I usually cook just half a head at a time, but this recipe works fine if you cook the whole head of cabbage, yielding about 8 servings.
I used a regular green cabbage. In Ireland Savoy cabbage is very popular, but this variety of cabbage is difficult to find in the United States.
Another variety often cooked in Ireland is York Cabbage. Both Savoy and York cabbages have darker green leaves than a typical head of green cabbage sold in American grocery stores.
If you don't wish to go to the trouble of creating a flavor packet with bacon, you could substitute a cup of chicken broth for some of the cooking water.
Directions for Cooking Cabbage
Here you’ll find step-by-step photographic instructions to help you recreate this recipe successfully. There are plenty of tips included along the way.
Here is my trick for adding a little bacon flavor to my American boiled cabbage. I take the outer leaf off the cabbage head and remove the hard stalk at the very end.
If the outer leaves of your head of cabbage are bruised or damaged, discard them and don't cook them.
Next place 3 slices of bacon folded over in the center of one of the cabbage leaves, together with 1 teaspoon of peppercorns.
Next comes time to fold up this flavor packet, by bending the sides of the leaf inwards over the bacon, then rolling up the cabbage leaf.
Secure it with some cotton thread, that will withstand boiling water.
Next cut the cabbage head in two halves.
Remove the inner hard core of the cabbage by slicing on either side of it. Wiggle it and it should pop right out.
Peel the leaves off the cabbage head, layer by layer.
Pop them in a colander and rinse them under cold water.
Transfer the cabbage leaves into a large saucepan, tearing any large leaves into smaller pieces.
Add the bacon and peppercorn packet prepared earlier.
Cover the cabbage with water and season with salt.
Bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat until the cabbage is fork tender.
Drain the cabbage and return it to the pot.
Discard the cabbage package with the bacon and peppercorns.
Using a knife cut through the cabbage leaves.
When shredded nicely, add some butter if desired.
Serve with potatoes and corned beef. Simply delicious with a few knobs of butter melting over the cabbage and potatoes.
I use salted butter on my cabbage rather than unsalted butter. When I was growing up in Ireland there was no unsalted butter available.
Can You Freeze Cooked Cabbage?
I believe cabbage is best when cooked fresh. However, if you have excess cooked cabbage (a rare occurrence in my home) you can absolutely freeze it for another day.
Be certain to cool the cooked cabbage completely before freezing. Transfer the cooked cabbage to a zip-lock freezer bag.
It’s important to remove the air from the freezer bag to help prevent spoilage and freezer burn. Gently squeeze the cabbage and push the air to the top of the bag. Once all of the air is removed, seal the plastic bag tightly. Pop it in the freezer for storage. You can freeze cooked cabbage for up to 5 months.
When you’re ready to serve your stored cabbage, thaw it completely. You can either reheat it in the microwave or sauté it in a skillet.
When using the microwave to reheat the cabbage there’s no need to add additional water. Simply place the cabbage in a microwave proof bowl and heat it on high for 2 to 3 minutes. The exact time required depends on how much cabbage is in your bowl. If you find it is still not heated through, give it additional bursts of 30 seconds in the microwave.
To reheat the cabbage in a skillet, melt some butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage to the pan and stir to toss it in the melted butter. Allow it to heat through for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Recipe Card for Boiled Cabbage Irish Style
Here's the printable recipe card for your kitchen files.
Boiled Cabbage Irish Style
- 1 head green cabbage
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 3 slices streaky bacon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ounce butter
- Remove the outer leaf off the cabbage head and remove the hard stalk at the very end. Place 3 slices of bacon folded over in the center of the cabbage leaf, together with 1 teaspoon of peppercorns.
- Bend the sides of the cabbage leaf inwards over the bacon and peppercorns, then roll up the cabbage leaf. Secure it with some cotton thread, that will withstand boiling water.
- Cut the cabbage head into two halves. Remove the inner hard core of the cabbage by slicing on either side of it. Wiggle it and it should pop right out.
- Peel the leaves off the cabbage head, layer by layer. Pop them in a colander and rinse them under cold water.
- Transfer the cabbage leaves into a large saucepan, tearing any large leaves into smaller pieces. Add the bacon and peppercorn packet prepared earlier.
- Cover the cabbage with water and season with salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes until the cabbage is tender.
- Drain the cabbage and return it to the pot. Discard the cabbage package with the bacon and peppercorns. Using a knife cut through the cabbage leaves to shred it.
- Add a knob of butter to melt over the cabbage. Serve with potatoes and corned beef.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
If you would prefer to cook you cabbage in a skillet here's my recipe for pan fried cabbage. It's a simple, but delicious way to cook cabbage and another favorite Irish cooking method for cabbage.
Wishing you all happy cabbage cooking for St. Patrick's Day.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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